EU Observer
Helena Spongenberg
October 9, 2006

Latvia’s ruling centre-right party won general elections on Saturday (7 October) making it the first time a sitting government has maintained its grip on power since the Baltic country broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The three-party coalition government received 44.8 percent of the ballots winning 51 of the 100 seats in the parliament securing them the lowest possible majority in the legislative body.

Prime minister Aigars Kalvitis may become the first re-elected premier in the country that has had 12 prime ministers in the last 15 years.

Foreign minister Artis Pabriks said the victory was ensured because “we never promised more than we could,” according to the Associated Press.

He said his party and the coalition has appealed to voters because “we have shown ourselves to be pragmatic, patriotic and efficient. We have proven to be reliable.”

Mr Kalvitis’ free-market and low tax policies have helped the former Soviet state to become one of the EU’s fastest growing economies – 12 percent in the first half of 2006 and in 2005 its gross domestic product soared by 10.2 percent.

The result gives the government a free rein to continue its pro-EU and economic policies – Latvia joined the EU in May 2004 and has pledged to adopt the euro.

Mr Kalvitis’ People’s Party finished first with 19.5 percent of the vote, ahead of coalition partner the Greens and Farmers Union with 16.7 percent. The third coalition party, Latvia First, was in fifth place with 8.6 percent, the results showed.

The surprise of the election came from the largely ethnic-Russian party Harmony Centre, which will hold 17 seats after winning 14.4 percent of votes.

Two other parties will also enter parliament, the nationalist Fatherland and Freedom with 8 seats and the pro-Moscow Human Rights in a United Latvia with 6 seats.

Sixty-two percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in Saturday’s election in the country of nearly 2.3 million residents, which is nine percent lower than in the last election in 2002.

Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga said at a press conference she was confident a prime minister and cabinet would be nominated and confirmed by parliament quickly, unlike the last election when the process took more than six weeks to complete, according to Reuters.